The Great Australian Novel? Chapter 2

As I observed late last year,

Some of youse Pubsters may have noticed that I haven’t published more of the late Malcolm B. Duncan’s “Chronicles of Nadir” recently. The change of PM in September has everything to do with that.

The lawyers have a term for it: ex abundante cautela, and given a certain person’s proclivities, that seems sage advice.

Instead, I offer something from a manuscript on which Mr Duncan was working in the months before his death.

Not that I would suggest Mr Duncan was anything other than original, but if any Pubster can suggest a possible source of his inspiration they might find themselves with a Golden Echidna.

The Golden Echidna is still waiting its rightful owner.

Meanwhile, read on.

Guardian

Waltzing Matilda

I put my mug of tea down on the table and picked up my pen to return to the Sudoku.

She entered the room.

Although She had fallen on hard times largely as a result of the depredations of those in my profession, I could never look at her, ageing although she now was, without my heart heaving into my mouth. She was eternally beautiful in that Sunset Boulevarde sort of way and She had established the most extraordinary relationship with Him. He had even written a play especially for Her in which She had starred to great critical acclaim and enough public arts funding to provide a small squadron of decent jet fighters rather than the crock of shit Brendan Nelson had ordered.

She threw up, narrowly missing the cat. I wondered whether there might be any utility in acquiring a small dog like the homosexuals next door had but then remembered that the cat would just eat it anyway.

She eructated a burp and said, “Better get a cloth.” She disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of disinfectant and a rather cheap superwipe I had bought from Aldi.

As she was cleaning up the mess, He said again, “Bugger, the Canaries”. “Oh,” she said groggily, “Claude hasn’t been at them again, has he?”

At the mention of his name, the cat opened a lazy eye – strange thing, astigmatism in a cat – confuses the hell out of canaries – noticed that there was nothing immediately edible and settled down to sleep again. Well, I say ‘settled’; what he actually did was close the eye. Within moments, he was snoring.

“Why does that bloody cat snore?” He asked.

“What’s that got to do with canaries?” She responded.

I could see it was going to be another one of those days.

“Canaries – sinking,” He said.

“You what?” she said flashing those eyes and dislodging just a small portion of a well-formed breast from her house gown. A tinge of areola was evident.

It was at moments like these that I became paralysed by the panorama of the moment – being a bottle baby, I wasn’t used to breasts. Well, not until I got the first set of my own but thereby hangs another tale. I’ll never forget that lass, though.

“Canary Islands – sinking,” He said.

“I think I should clean my teeth,” She said, and headed towards the bathroom.

What does one do? Confronted by a now raddled, broke, beautiful actress who parties too much, yearning for love, deep in regret and knowing that one can do nothing about it – well, one just soldiers on I suppose, as soldiers do.

Of course, He never soldiered on: He had been in the RAF. Rum do that must have been. She, on the other hand had been a Vietnam protester. Probably a good thing because if She had been in the RAAF she would probably have been a lesbian. Not that one has anything against lesbians – I’m one myself – but for Her, and the rest of humanity, it would be a sad waste.

She returned beaming Colgate. Thank god for agents. If I were writing this on my own, I would have missed all the product placements.

Claude stretched and went to his Snappy Tom bowl filled with Whiskers biscuits as it nestled quietly by its companion replete with Evian water. (Another $10K, the agent tells me.)

Really though, plus ça change. Here’s Luck is full of product names and I bet Lennie never got a brass razoo out of it.

I wonder what it is about journalists, actresses and the bottle. They seem to have a tripartite attraction.

He was having none of it. “I said the Canaries are buggered. Nothing to do with the fucking cat. Canary islands. About to sink.”

“Oh, global warming,” She said, leaning over my shoulder and looking at the paper. “You shit, you’ve done the Sudoku.”

Restraining the urge to say something like well, at least I’m sober enough to do it you raddled old cow, I smiled in that way that I first learnt when I started smoking Sobranies and said, “The whiteout is in the top drawer of the desk.”

Claude returned and jumped up on my lap. Immediately I was covered in 10 cm of thick, impervious fur.

“Forget the fucking Sudoku, woman: this is important,” He said.

“Well, excuse ME,” She said, and burped again.

I’d once seen Olivier burp, and She had it down pat. There are so few Australian icons of the theatre and no-one, not even He, has ever been able to produce what could be called the Great Australian Novel. Perhaps it is just that we are not Great in that sense. I had, however, become slightly confused by the exchange between them. As I steadied my nerves by scratching Claude’s head idly, my thoughts turned to Browning and what a truly terrible poet he was. Not as bad as Gwen Harwood of course, but we need not plumb those depths.

“Anyway,” She said in that irresistibly vacuous way that actresses have, “Global warming might be a good thing. The Canaries could be a reef. Greenland would be worth visiting again.”

My thoughts naturally wandered into a reverie about democracy, the Aelthing and the Witenagemot.

“Reef? Who wants a new reef? Got a reef. Just want to keep it,” He replied.

“Whatever,” She said, and drifted towards the toaster. Claude raised his head slightly, thought better of it, and settled down to sleep once more. It was moments like these that I felt completely trapped.

Sanderus Antiquariaat

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